PAULSBORO – It’s hard to grow up in Paulsboro and not understand what the wrestling team means to the community.
Granted, the boys basketball team has had quite a bit of success over the last decade and the football team year in and year out is a Group 1 title contender but the wrestling team, well, that’s something completely different.
“How can you not be humbled to be a part of this,” senior Joey Perez said on Sunday after the Red Raiders won a state record 30th Group 1 state title. “It’s what you strive to be a part of. It’s the biggest thing you can do growing up in Paulsboro. If you grow up in Paulsboro and wrestle in the state final and win the state final, you’re a part of something bigger than yourself.”
The Red Raiders have had some amazing teams over the last century and picking out the best is near impossible. This year’s version does have the additional talking point in that it went undefeated, something Paulsboro hadn’t done since the 2000 team which finished the year undefeated and No.1 in the state.
That team was special in that’s its final four weights all had state champion potential. In fact, in a time frame that all matches started at 103, most teams knew their fate even before James Funk took the mat at the start of a foursome that included Mike Mendenhall, Troy Bennett and, of course, heavyweight Tom Curl.
This team didn’t have that formidable end, but it mirrored the 2000 version and, to be fair, so many other versions in a work ethic that is beyond reproach.
“I'm just so proud of these kids," Paulsboro head coach Paul Morina said. "From day one, they've worked hard. They've done everything we asked them to do, never any problems.
"They have their goals. Every team has goals but this group really works incredibly hard. They really deserve this because of how they go about their business.”
The biggest match of the year was a much anticipated showdown with No.2 Delsea but as has happened so many times before, the Red Raiders used a business-like performance to ease their way to a 36-22 win over the Gloucester County rivals.
In many ways, their toughest match of the year was the state final, a 44-16 win over Kittatinny. Ignore the final score for one moment and consider that six wins came by decision, one of which went to overtime and another, a 4-3 decision by Josh Bailey at 195, all could have gone against Paulsboro but didn’t because this team wouldn’t allow it.
“You prepare for every match just like you prepare for every other match,” senior Anthony Duca said. “It’s the Paulsboro way.”
A way that has worked since the first mat was stretched out across the gym floor in the early 1930’s and will continue to do so when the next team that goes undefeated and remembers the 2017 version.
1. Paulsboro (23-0)
2. Delsea (24-5)
3. Egg Harbor Twp. (21-3)
4. St. Augustine (18-8)
5. Collingswood (25-5)
6. Haddonfield (20-8)
7. Gateway (25-5)
8. Northern Burlington (27-6)
9. Woodstown (20-6)
10. Camden Catholic (22-7)
Tag(s): Home Camden Catholic Collingswood Haddonfield St. Augustine Prep Schools Tri-County Conference Olympic Conference Cape-Atlantic League Colonial Conference Gateway Burlington Co. League Paulsboro Woodstown Delsea Egg Harbor Township Northern Burlington Mike Radano Wrestling Burlington County League Liberty No. Burlington Wrestling Cape-Atlantic League American Egg Harbor Twp. Wrestling St. Augustine Wrestling Colonial Conference Liberty Collingswood Wrestling Haddonfield Wrestling Patriot Division Paulsboro Wrestling Gateway Wresting Olympic Conference National Camden Cath. Wrestling Tri-County Conference Diamond Woodstown Wrestling Delsea Wrestling